Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

World Soil Day 2020

“Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity”

Speech by Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General 

Rome, Friday, 4 December 2020

Virtual Celebration

As delivered


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to be with you today to commemorate the seventh UN World Soil Day, under this year’s theme “Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity”.

2. This annual event, celebrated around the world, helps raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils.

3. Soils are not only the foundation of agri-food systems and where 95% foods we eat is produced, but their health and biodiversity are also central to our efforts to end hunger and achieve sustainable agri-food systems.

4. It is a great pleasure to officially launch, together with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity report, a joint effort by the scientific community led by our Global Soil Partnership and the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, in collaboration with the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative and the European Commission.

5. The report highlights the current status of soil biodiversity, the challenges and the solutions it can provide to today's global issues.

6. The report calls attention to the fact that soil biodiversity is under threat.

7. Many indicators point to declines in soil health, and ecosystem services provided by soils are at severe risk.

8. It calls for urgent action, to avoid dramatic consequences on food security and nutrition, climate change and ultimately sustainable development. 

9. Preventing soil biodiversity loss and fostering its sustainable management through instruments such as the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management must become a global priority. 

10. Our soils are also home to some 25% of the world’s biodiversity, but we know only around 1% of this hidden and quiet universe.

11. The report shows that particularly invertebrates and micro-organisms have never been identified and described but they are working for us every day and night. They are silent dedicating heroes.

12. Innovative advances, including molecular sequencing techniques and “big data” analytical tools, can help to identify germplasm living in soils.

13. And there is a need to establish a global soil information system in line with digital agriculture and innovations in environ-metrics.

14. FAO is intensifying its work on agricultural innovation, thereby supporting efforts to generate more evidence on how related best practices can contribute to transform our agri-food systems and sustainably manage our land.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

15. The recommendations of the report will be discussed further at the Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity in 2021.

16. On this occasion, policy makers, farmers, food producers, scientists, the private sector and other stakeholders will gather to define a plan of action to address soil biodiversity loss. We encourage you to be part of this discussion.

17. We have been working with all our Members and partners to ensure that the issue of soils be rooted in the global agenda.

18. Allow me to acknowledge particularly our resource partners who are financially supporting the Global Soil Partnership. 

19. I want to express our gratitude to the Russian Federation for financially supporting the Glinka World Soil Prize that will be delivered later today.

20. And I thank the Kingdom of Thailand for funding the King Bhumibol World Soil Day Award. This award aims to honor and encourage organizers of World Soil Day events. Today we will also announce the winner of this award.

21. I look forward to congratulating the winners of these awards.

22. I want to salute our fruitful alliance with the CBD Secretariat.

23. We are committed to strengthening our engagement even further to “Keep soil alive by protecting soil biodiversity”.

24. A Chinese proverb says: Soil is the Mother of all creatures on earth. (土地是万物之母). Do not forget the Mother when you are getting nourishment from.

25. Let us show reverence to nature and work jointly for better world by better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.

Thank you.